Author Topic: Soldiers deserve better  (Read 1534 times)

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Soldiers deserve better
« on: March 30, 2012, 10:57:18 PM »
Soldiers deserve better

March 28, 2012 3:05 PM

Cpl. Stuart Langridge?s death in 2005 was the result of service to his country in one of the deadliest war zones on the planet. The fact that he died of his own hand after returning from Afghanistan should make no difference in the way his death is viewed, or the way his parents have been treated since then.

But, instead of receiving support, his parents say their quest for more information about their son?s death ? even a copy of the suicide note addressed to them ? became a bureaucratic nightmare. Both Defence Minister Peter MacKay and chief of the defence forces Gen. Walter Natynczyk have since apologized to Langridge?s parents for their ordeal. And Langridge was also awarded the Memorial Cross and Sacrifice medal.

Langridge?s parents say they had to fight every step of the way to try to get more information from the military. This week, as a result of pressure from Sheila and Shaun Fynes, a public hearing is beginning into the Canadian Forces? handling of his illness and death.

Langridge?s parents should be commended for doing battle on behalf of their son, especially during a period when they should have been grieving. The apologies from top Defence officials recognize that, but the military must do more. As a result of their pressure, the Canadian Forces should better understand what mistakes were made in Langridge?s treatment before his death and the way the armed forces handled his death. The hearings should, ideally, help prevent other parents from having to endure what the Fynes have.

Among other things, they say the military improperly registered their son?s death certificate which led to a lengthy battle over mishandled records and the executorship of his estate. It took the military more than 14 months to deliver their son?s suicide note to his family. The note, according to his mother, ?said he was sorry, that he loved us, but he couldn?t take the pain anymore.?

The Canadian Forces have slowly acknowledged the extent of soldiers suffering from combat stress and their needs. Military officials, supported by psychiatric reports, say the problem was drugs, but the family contends he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. In either case, he deserved support as did his family, after his death. Not every suicide can be prevented, but the military must better understand the effects of combat stress and mental illness.

Langridge?s case is, sadly, not unique. He struggled with depression and substance abuse after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The 29-year-old had also served in Bosnia. He attempted suicide several times before succeeding. Shortly before his death, his parents say, he checked himself in to a psychiatric facility and was responding well. He asked to go back, shortly before his death, but the unit was full.

Langridge?s parents contend the military investigation into the case was aimed at absolving military officials of any liability, rather than looking at what happened, what should have happened and what could be done differently next time.

Langridge?s case suggests the Canadian military still has plenty to learn about protecting and honouring all soldiers.

Ottawa Citizen
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